Monday, 30 November -0001

My ESSENTIAL RECIPES

It has been so rewarding assembling the recipes for my new book as I’ve been able to bring together some absolute favourites, past and present. While it’s lovely to experiment and try out new things, you shouldn’t feel obliged to serve something different to your guests each time, especially if they’re people you don’t see regularly. There may be certain dishes that you love doing and that are always devoured with enthusiasm by your guests – so if they have praised a dish, why not serve it again? Just as you might go to a wellloved restaurant expecting to be able to order your favourite food, so your guests might look forward to being served something they’ve enjoyed before. They might even be disappointed if you don’t produce your signature dish! The recipes here come into that category; they’re tried-and-tested crowd pleasers.

Malted chocolate cake (pictured above) 

Serves 8-10

Prepare ahead: The filling will remain soft and ready to use in a bowl covered with cling film for 2-3 days. The finished cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to a day.

Freeze: Freeze the cake and icing separately, then defrost at room temperature and assemble when ready to serve.

30g malted chocolate drink powder
30g cocoa powder
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs For the icing
3 tbsp malted chocolate drink powder 
1½ tbsp hot milk
125g butter, softened
250g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
50g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids), melted
1 tbsp boiling water
about 20 Maltesers, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease two x 20cm round sandwich tins with butter and line the bases with baking paper.

Measure the malted chocolate drink powder and the cocoa powder into a large bowl, pour over 2 tablespoons of water and mix to a paste. Add the remaining cake ingredients and beat until smooth.

Divide evenly between the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Set aside in the tins to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, measure the malted chocolate drink powder into a bowl, add the hot milk and mix until smooth. Add the butter, icing sugar and melted chocolate and mix again until smooth, then add the boiling water to give a gloss to the icing.

Place one cake on a plate and spread over half the icing. Sandwich with the other cake and spread (or pipe) the remaining icing on top, using the tip of a rounded palette knife to create a swirled effect from the centre to the edge of the cake. Arrange the Maltesers over the top and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Sticky chicken

Serves 6

Food-Mar13-02-590

Prepare ahead: The glaze can be mixed well in advance and kept at room temperature, ready to pour over the chicken just before cooking. The peppers can be chopped ahead of time and stored in a freezer bag in the fridge.

Oil, for greasing
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 150g-175g each
3 red peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley, to garnish

For the glaze
4 tbsp dark soy sauce 2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp runny honey
4cm knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and  nely chopped (see tip)
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180 fan/gas mark 6 and grease a large roasting tin with oil.

Arrange the chicken breasts and pepper pieces in the greased tin and season with salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients for the sticky glaze in a jug or bowl and spoon over the chicken.

Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Baste the meat halfway through cooking.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and peppers to a serving dish to rest for a few minutes. Put the roasting tin on the hob over a high heat and boil the cooking juices for 3-4 minutes until thickened. (Don’t let the sugars in the glaze burn as this will make it bitter.) Pour the sticky glaze over the chicken and sprinkle with the chopped parsley to  nish.

TIP
To peel the ginger, scrape it with the tip of a teaspoon; it comes away easily as it is so thin and you don’t waste any of the ginger ‘fresh.

Quick and easy to make I’ve used skinless chicken breasts here, but it would also work well with breasts with the skin left on or with chicken thighs. Serve with dressed rocket leaves and potato wedges. Any leftover chicken is delicious eaten cold the next day, sliced up as part of a salad.

WATERMELON, FETA, CUCUMBER AND MINT SALAD

Serves 6 as a main dish or 10-12 as part of a bu”ffet – this salad is best made and served on the same day

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½ cucumber
½ small watermelon, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm cubes 
200g good-quality feta cheese, crumbled into small cubes
50g pitted black olives in oil, halved
1 small bunch of mint, chopped For the dressing 
4 tbsp olive oil (or oil reserved from the olives) 
juice of ½ lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the cucumber with a potato peeler, cut in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut into crescent shapes.

Layer half the watermelon, cucumber, feta and olives in a bowl, repeat, then sprinkle with the chopped mint.

For the dressing, whisk together the oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and pour into the bowl. Serve chilled.

Extracted from Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites by Mary Berry, with photography by Georgia Glynn Smith, published by BBC Books, priced £25.

LESSONS WITH MARY
Baking queen Mary Berry will host cookery lessons on board Britannia, the new P&O Cruises ship. She is travelling on B513, a 12-night British Isles cruise, departing on 6 July. From £1,149 per person. Twohour classes cost from £100 per person. For details: 0843-374 0111, www.pocruises.com


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